Google Needs To Focus!
“Don’t be like Microsoft with products all over the map, focus!”.
Google is at the same crossroads Microsoft was at few years ago. Microsoft took the wrong turn and Google is heading in that direction unless they focus on the products they already have instead of investing billions of dollars, thousands of engineering hours, and the energy of their users to launch new and incomplete products.
This doesn’t mean Google shouldn’t innovate or shouldn’t launch new products at all. It would be wrong to tell Google to simply stick to what they have and stop innovating, but innovation doesn’t mean launching a new product every time there is a new market even if the product Google plans to launch is not ready yet. If the product is really bad the first time I use it, the chances are I will not try it again, even if you promise me it is a totally different experience from what it was before! Even worse, I will expect the same quality from you next time you tell me you are launching a new product.
Most people use more than Google Search. Some of us use Gmail, others use Google Docs, Google Reader, Google Finance, Google Maps, etc. The advantage of launching many products is clear, however, there is a fundamental problem with launching too many products: the company loses focus. Instead of putting your engineers on a clear mission to – let’s say for example – make everything on the internet simply accessible from a search box, your mission becomes to maintain every single product you have launched so far. That is the problem Microsoft ran into few years ago.
Microsoft wanted to be in every single market that is big enough to generate some revenue right now, or in the future. They are willing to lose hundreds of millions of dollars by investing them into projects that exist for the purpose of competing with other companies.
Apple, for example, does not work that way. Apple creates few products but creates them really well. They depend on other companies to provide them with the services they need in order to make their products fantastic. The advantage of this approach is not having to compete with the best in the market but simply use their technologies and services to provide your customer with the best experience possible. A simple example is Google Maps on the iPhone. They did not create a new maps application, they simply used the best one in the market. You might not know it as a simple users using “Maps” on your iPhone but at the end, you are getting an amazing user experience designed by Apple and powered by Google.
Google Finance as an example
What I mean by losing focus is losing the ability to maintain and improve all of your services at a quick enough pace that your customers wont leave you for other services. Let’s take Google Finance as an example.
(I was going to take Google Reader as an example but that has been discussed way too much – gives you an idea of how many products Google is not focusing on)
I love Google Finance, it is fantastic. It gives you real time updates, works really well, and has a friendly user interface. That has been said, it has been the same (more or less) for years! I have been using Google Finance for a while and once you start using it as your main way to get updates on the stock market, you start realizing that Google needs to improve the service. The portfolio feature, for example, is really bad, tracking multiple companies at the same time is almost impossible without creating a portfolio (back to the portfolio issues) or simply opening two tabs, and the company information (quarterly releases and important dates) are rarely updated on time making that part of the service unreliable. If you notice, my complaints are all small issues that Google should have fixed a while ago!
You can easily argue that this is not a major product for Google. I totally understand that. However, this is exactly what I mean by focus.
To me, you either launch a fantastic product that you are willing to maintain, improve, and take care of or simply don’t launch the product at all. Every single page with your logo or branding on it helps shape the image your user has about your company. If I don’t like Google Finance then I visit Google Places and realize that their reviews are not as useful as Yelp’s, then head to Google Reader and realize the user interface is really bad, that’s enough for me as a user to start changing my image of Google as a company.
You might say this is not fair considering the other amazing services that Google provides us with, but this is how customers make decisions most of the time.
Google is not going down, but it might not go anywhere
The fear is not that Google will go down, it will probably remain the Google we know today for a long time the same way Microsoft remains today the same Microsoft we knew few years ago. They will still generate lots of revenue, and they will still launch products and compete with other companies, but this is all applicable to Microsoft.
The problem with Microsoft is that people have no faith in their products anymore and this is becoming the same for Google.
I used to wait overnight for a Google product launch because I trusted that whatever new product Google is launching is going to be amazing!
You know the last product launch I was excited for? Buzz! Yes, that’s true, I was excited for Buzz.
I couldn’t wait to get Buzz in my Gmail but it took me 2 days and I couldn’t wait to find a way to disable it. Who decided that Buzz was a good idea? Buzz wasn’t the reason, it was just the last time I was willing to give Google a pass on a bad product launch. Since then, whenever Google announces they are launching a new product, I feel sad because I know this only means one of the products I really love will get less attention, less improvements, and will have a slower development cycle. It makes me sad to see Google turn into a new Microsoft just like it was really sad seeing Microsoft turn into the new IBM.